Active Listening: What Is It And How To Improve It | by Antonio Martina |  Medium

The biggest problem in communication is not the language but often we listen not to understand but to respond. What a mess we all make of communication. If only we will listen more, there will be less quarrels in homes, offices etc. Listening, like all skills require learning. Unfortunately it is not taught in school. In studying the skills to effective communication 4 major areas stand out; writing, reading, speaking and listening. Incidentally while the first three are taught in schools listening is often taken for granted.

Listening is an art that we must learn to cultivate in life. Have you ever wondered why a man has two ears and one mouth? I guess it is so he can listen  twice more than he speaks. Many times when we listen well enough, we find the answers to the questions in our heart taken care of. One must listen rightly, thoughtfully, effectively, intelligently, unassumingly and calmly. If you want to be a good listener you have to cultivate the habit of effective listening. 

Most relationships including businesses fail today because we are all speaking and no one is listening. Often times we pretend to be listening while all we are doing is waiting to respond or react. Our responses are so formed in our hearts that even if the issue was attended to, we will still would go ahead to speak. Some times we just respond or react to a phrase in the conversation and leave out the substance.

 All relationships thrive on effective listening rather than speaking.  A fool who keeps quiet and listen more than he speaks is considered wise while the wise man who talks more than he listen becomes a fool in the multitudes of his words. Many times we do not even listen to our spirit or conscience. It is not surprising that often when a negative incident occurs in our lives we recalled how ”some thing warned us” and we always ended with the phrase “if only i had listen”. That “something” was God silently speaking to us but we failed to listen.

Making a decision to listen effectively  is the choice of the wise and he will only get wiser. “Let everyone (therefore) be quick to hear [be a careful, thoughtful listeners}, slow to speak{a speaker of carefully chosen words}, slow to anger {patient, reflective, forgiving…” (James 1;19 Amp).

The first step to becoming a good listener begins with a conscious decision to change. Having taken that decision then you can do the following:

  1. Exercise patience: A good listener must first seek to understand and so must wait patiently for the speaker to conclude speaking, establish that he has concluded, pause and then respond.
  2. Focus: All attention must be towards the person who is communicating with you. It is not the time to multitask.
  3. Maintain eye contact. It is not enough to focus, you must maintain eye contact. If I had looked at my son when he was reporting the earring incident, I would have observed his pain or probably noticed that he was touching his ear.
  4. Maintain a positive posture. Do not turn your back on the person who is communicating with you.
  5. Wear an expression that shows that you are not just listening but also following the discussion. You may need to nod occasionally, smile or expressed surprise where required.
  6. Ask questions to clarify that you understand what is being communicated. Avoid assumptions or jumping into conclusion.
  7. Take notes. This is crucial particularly for young executives. Never ever enter a conversation with your boss or supervisor without a note pad.

To become  good listeners we must learn to keep ourselves in the background. Developing the art of listening is a personal responsibility for everyone. Parents to children, teachers to students and vice versa, subordinates to supervisors. Whether horizontal or vertical communication effective listening habit will help to foster better understanding and excellent results.

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